Comments on: The Great Input Showdown!

Input, Input, Input ... Grafitti, full-sized keyboards and mini keyboards. Which is the best solution? PIC Reviewer and long time "piloteer" Dan Royea, puts the three leading methods to the test in the Great Input Showdown.
Return to Story - Permalink

Article Comments


The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. PalmInfocenter is not responsible for them in any way.
Please Login or register here to add your comments.

Comments Closed Comments Closed
This article is no longer accepting new comments.



Timothy Rapson @ 10/21/2002 6:52:33 PM #

I get 40 WPM or so.

No keyboard to carry, little extra expense. Always there. Love it. Try it.

BTW, good review. Thanks

Palm_Otaku @ 10/21/2002 7:09:14 PM #
Yeah, a good follow-up review might be various software alternatives like Fitaly, MessagEaseST, TapPad, ....

As with my other reviews, please feel free to post direct questions in the comments section and I'll check back and answer them the best I can.



glenngillery @ 10/21/2002 8:02:29 PM #
I don't own a Sony, But I use fitaly stamp and my m515, and love it for the same reasons as mentioned in the initial post. What I think is cool, for the Sony people, is that they are developing a Virtual Fitaly for the NR/NX users. Just a heads up.



orriepelc @ 10/22/2002 12:08:43 PM #
I agree that the Fitaly keyboard's a good layout; when I had a Palm IIIc, I wanted to use Fitaly, but it was incompatible with color devices (at least it was at the time). Luckily, Gustavo Broos wrote a keyboard hack that allowed you to make your own keyboard layouts (I believe the program's called Virtual Keyboard), and I wrote a Fitaly-like keyboard for it, and it worked wonders. Yes, it's an on-screen keyboard, but it worked great. If you're interested, I could put it out on the Net somewhere...
Palm_Otaku @ 10/22/2002 12:32:07 PM #
Yeah, Fitaly is potentially a *very* efficient method as long as one takes the time to learn their layout. It is definitely something to check out:

- D

neoyuan @ 10/22/2002 1:24:50 PM #
I haven't used FITALY myself, but I believe it is a good thing. My question is why PalmSource, Plam or Sony can not implement both Grafitti and something like FITALY in their products. This will emilinate the need for thumboard, while still statify those Grafitti zealots.

It is just a remap of Grafitti or VG area.

a3 @ 10/22/2002 3:20:51 PM #
well if you want to check the software version of Input Showdown, go to:

It's a little old but apparently still valid.

Nothing: the worst you can do.

Timothy Rapson @ 10/23/2002 8:06:25 PM #
My apologies for hijacking your review to talk so much about FITALY, but I just love FITALY and software keyboard. I was greatly honored to be on the BETA testing team and used FITALY for 8 months on my miserable mono Ipaq.

I might note that FITALY final build is due out on November 1 and it is really worth getting.

Gazpacho @ 3/15/2003 7:40:36 PM #
To orriepelc:

Could you please put your virtualkb FITALY online? I've been dying to use such kind of program as FITALY hack indeed doesn't work on newer Palm models.


TrafficGeek @ 10/21/2002 7:07:38 PM #
Perhaps we should open this up to others who's interested in sharing their results. I think as the amount of sample from different users builds up over time the results would be more indicative of the potential of each input method.
RE: ...hmmmm
Palm_Otaku @ 10/21/2002 7:11:45 PM #
Yeah, I had the same thought. I'll be doing a little informal testing at the Vancouver Palm User Group meeting tonight (, but building up a database would be very interesting!

Note that thanks to "Dangerous" Dave Haupert, WPM is freeware and is a *great* tool for getting comparative results!

- Dan

RE: ...hmmmm
mentalsrule @ 10/21/2002 7:17:41 PM #
i have to agree on this, because like me, i get 90 WPM on the full keyboard, about 39 with the mini keyboard of my NR, and about 30 with grafitti... so everyone varies, from if you are a long time grafitti user, to a new biginner like someone who would be buying the zire.

RE: ...hmmmm
amike @ 10/22/2002 2:31:34 AM #
There is a gap between writing by reading a text and by thinking of the text itself...

In first case, my whole attention is sticking to my task of writing...
In second case, I must do two things in the same time...

So, I think it is easier to AUTOMATE writing with a keyboard than with Graffiti !

That is my experience. Do you agree ?

RE: ...hmmmm
Zuber @ 10/22/2002 3:45:59 AM #
I think I know what you mean, so here is my take.

When I switched from my IPaq, using onscreen keyboard/Fitaly to the Nokia 9210 I found I could enter data much faster.

The 9210 has a built in qwerty keyboard. The keys are rubber and it is not like a full Psion keyboard but OK.

If I actually timed how long it took to type a specific sentence then then I found that there was not that much differece in speed (for short entries).

However, I still seemed to find using the keyboard better. I finally figured out what the reason was.

When using the on screen entry methods, I had to think about the data entry.

When using the Nokia, I could think about what I was writing.

In other words, using a "real" keyboard allowed me to focus on what I was writing rather than and inputing the text.

This is robably due to having used qwerty keyboards for many years, but I suspect it applies to most people.


RE: ...hmmmm
Timothy Rapson @ 10/23/2002 8:21:01 PM #
Someone trying to decide whether to get FITALY or MESSAGEST (sp?) asked in another forum whether anyone had gotten to the point where using FITALY was transparent. That is how he put it. With FITALY it took about three months, but it became so naturaly that I never thought of it. My fingers just went to the right place, sometimes to a whole word in one movement (check out the placement of the a,n,d keys right in a row, for example). Very fluid. I can get real work done with it and without being distracted by the entry method.

RE: ...hmmmm
Zuber @ 10/25/2002 7:09:52 AM #
Fitaly is quick, like you said takes time to get upto speed though. I can't see ever reaching the same performance level with Graffiti.


RE: ...hmmmm
SwissFreek @ 11/9/2002 12:22:06 PM #
I don't know. I am a relative newcomer to the Palm scene (only had a PDA for just two years), but I find that, now that I am in college, I spend much more time writing things on the Palm than I do writing things by hand (I type non-stop of course :)), and the few times that I have to write something out I often find myself reverting to Graffiti when I need to write fast. Maybe I'm just an uber-dork or something, but Graffiti has become so natural to me that when I checked out the iPaq 3900 at MicroCenter last week, I had to force myself NOT to write Graffiti and to write normal letters (the recognition on that thing is amazing by the way, but they need to learn to use all that screen space efficiently like a Clie), which slowed me down significantly. I admit that I do get tired writing long documents, but I can never get into the habit of lugging a thumb board around. It defeats the wonderful portability of my m515 (I'm a pocket person, if it doesn't fit in the pants, it's not coming for the ride).

Great job

abosco @ 10/21/2002 9:26:54 PM #
Hey Dan, great review! (Kudos to me for not missing it this time ;D)

I average about 20 WPM with graffiti, but I haven't really tested myself recently. I've tried out the Treo and NR thumboards, only to fall in love with the NR one (don't ask why) and to hate the Treo one (again, don't ask why). I'm much faster on a thumbboard, probably 35-40 WPM or so and I even tried doing it while looking away, and I could still hit every key. Well, I guess that was just practice (in CompUSA, mind you) for when I get my NX. Although I do like the thumboard a lot, I will never be able to move away from graffiti. This is where my NX will come in!

Keep up the great work, Dan!

I suport pudlik edicashun.

Wireless Keyboard

Jeff-Russell @ 10/21/2002 10:41:08 PM #
Until recently, graffit was my primary means of input and I have become rather good at it, averaging about 35 wpm. About four months ago, I bought a mini foldaway keyboard from MicroInnovations. It was a real pain to use, as I had to resort to Hunt and Peck! However, a month ago I purchased a Wireless Folding keyboard from MicroInnovations and found it to be an exceptional device. It is compact enough, yet comfortable enough that I can use it almost as well as my laptop keyboard, getting about 75 - 90 wpm. Another reason I really like it is because I can still be online with my 505 via my PalmModem or UC to cell. I have yet to see any reviews of it, but since it uses IR, it is compatible with nearly every IR enabled handheld device, including PPC and Zaurus.


RE: Wireless Keyboard
renurb @ 10/25/2002 11:19:40 PM #
I just purchased the same keyboard myself. Fantastic design, works great. Only one downfall though and it's that pda holder / mirror thing they package with it. Actually, I never intended to use the mirror / holder because the software has the option to let you simply "flip" your screen. That way you can butt your pda right up against it and work on a flat surface.

Sounded great, but one more problem... The software allows you to "flip" the screen on all PDA's except Sony Clie models... Why? Good question. It's not even mentioned on the packaging. The only response I got from the manufacturer was that they would look into it. It took them a week to reply to my question as well.

Still, all that complaining out of the way, I have to say I really do like it. It beats carrying around the old bulky folding keyboard and I'm using it daily, even though I have to look at my clie upside down. Strange thing, is that I'm getting used to it.

Blessed are they who don't,
for they shall not,
nor will they.

Excellent shootout

Scott R @ 10/22/2002 9:34:11 AM #
Dan, just wanted to commend you on your "shoot-out." When I saw the title on the PIC home page, I was fully prepared to read your article and get disgusted after reading you conclude that one particular method was the best. I'm happy to see that I was pleasantly surprised. Your comments echo much of what I've said in various threads here and there. Each method has various pros and cons and, in some cases, the best "method" is, in fact, to have multiple methods available at your disposal based on the need at the time.

As you stated, one of Graffiti's strengths is the ability to be able to do it without looking at the screen. This, of course, is true of a full-size keyboard as well and, after some practice, would probably be true of a thumbboard as well (at least for the primary alphabet). I've found that it's certainly not true, however, of other handwriting recognition systems. Another strength of Graffiti is that, when coupled with a touch-screen-based OS (which is what we're talking about here) your hand is already poised to tap on other on-screen elements.

As you said, Dan, Graffiti can be tiresome for entering longer sections of text. This is where the thumbboard and full-size keyboards start to shine. I think it's also important to note the types of applications/uses where longer text writing is more common. On a non-wireless device, we're mainly talking about the note app here. For entering contacts or calendar items, I think Graffiti has the advantage. Now that we have more wireless devices, I think the thumbboard starts to become the preferrable choice though, as composing email and instant messaging becomes part of the "core functionality."

Fortunately, the good news is that with the thumbboard-equipped devices, you don't really have to choose. The Sony NR/NX series offers thumbboards plus a full-size Graffiti entry panel. Even the Treos can make use of Graffiti (albeit in the 160x160 area) via 3rd party apps.


RE: Excellent shootout
Palm_Otaku @ 10/22/2002 9:41:59 PM #
Thanks Scott - you make a number of good points, particularly about having the stylus available for Graffiti alpha-numeric input as well as tapping on-screen UI elements.

Sony Thumboard

pontif @ 10/22/2002 9:44:48 AM #
The sony thumboard lacks several critical features found on other thumboards, such as the ability to enter the shortcut and command strokes. Also, the control key doesn't send "control-key" sequences like a normal keyboard, such as the Stowaway/PPK/KB11 keyboards. Instead the driver attempts to directly manipulate the contents of the edit control for selection, copy, and paste, etc., which means it does NOT work well with Wordsmith or QuickWord, etc. For example, ctrl-shift-left arrow should select the previous word, but in Wordsmith or QuickWord it doesn't. This isn't the fault of the programs, but of the driver, because it doesn't actually send through the ctrl-shift-left-arrow... It tries to directly manipulate the edit control memory to do it, and thus only works with the plain-old palm OS edit controls and not anything more advanced like the word processors.

The lack of the command stroke means you can't use that method for activating copy and paste or the menu hotkeys, etc. The lack of the shortcut stroke means that you have no way of activating graffiti shortcuts, like "dts" for the date and time.

The sad thing is the quality itself of the KB20 is great, and the tactile feedback is great, but the driver just stinks, and they overlooked some important functionality. To top it off, it is the most expensive thumboard available!

I also found it to be inconvienient to carry, because of the fact that it attached via cable, which means it isn't as easy to pop on and off as some of the others.
Also when snapped on prevents the clie cover from folding flat, and makes the unit about 1/2 inch thicker and an inch wider.

RE: Sony Thumboard
Palm_Otaku @ 10/22/2002 9:45:14 PM #
pontif, my experience agrees very strongly with yours. Let's hope that Sony will work on better drivers!

One limitation that you didn't mention is the "Alt" key, which allows use of accented characters etc. The characters aren't marked anywhere on the keypad, nor could I find any reference to how they were mapped other than in the paper instruction book. Do you know of any reference that you can view on the Clie itself?

In terms of the connector cable, I think that design decision was made for compatability across different Clie handheld form-factors. As you stated, it is certainly less convenient to put on / take off than some other ThumbBoard designs I've seen.

- Dan

Fuzzy Math

ska @ 10/22/2002 11:13:04 AM #
you did 20 trials and discarded 5 out of twenty and calculate the standard deviation? Is it even still meaningfull statistically speaking?

that's like calculating the average annual temperature fluctuation and you decide to chop off September through December (25% of data), cause their number are so darned low!

you can only reject data by using T test (even that with cautionary since it's only 20 run)

oh boy...

RE: Fuzzy Math
Palm_Otaku @ 10/22/2002 12:40:31 PM #
LOL - hey ska, you're not Charlie Krebs (my old stats prof from University days) are you? ;-)

Strictly speaking you're right on the money, but I felt discarding the lowest 5 was justifiable if you take into account the "fumble-finger" effect. e.g. I'm not used to the narrow-diameter stylus that comes with the new Clies and a few times my grip slipped too much and had to adjust (losing valuable seconds). Or I hadn't gotten *really* familiar with the thumbboard and suffered brain-lockup a couple of times. Or my 7-year old came down and distracted me, etc. (Yeah, excuses, excuses...)

Anyway, I hope you (and Charlie) will excuse the quasi-scientific statistical methodology :) I should have also used a much larger sample size but there's only so much time in the day, and frankly, I'm getting sick the "The quick brown fox..." ;-)



RE: Fuzzy Math
Scott R @ 10/22/2002 12:42:34 PM #
I wouldn't put too much value into the specific numbers, themselves. As you say, the sample size is too small and, more importantly, he was the only test gerbil. Still, I believe his overall findings and comments are reasonable.


RE: Fuzzy Math
ska @ 10/22/2002 1:00:27 PM #
The grafitti and mini keyboard number is pretty close, the discarded data might change the average so close that it reach 1s. A difference that might means to somebody between a decission of splurging money on expensive mini keyboard to improve his work, or..

buying into a total gimmick.

plus the entire point of having standard deviation is to tell the consistancy of your typing between data take, hence the overall quality of data. that std above are just a cute numerology.

RE: Fuzzy Math
KRamsauer @ 10/22/2002 1:04:36 PM #
It's not right to discard the lowest 5 simply because they are the lowest five. If there is something qualitatively different that causes it to be an outlier (if thumboard falls off, or you have a stroke) you can drop it because the population from which that sample is being drawn is different from the target population.

RE: Fuzzy Math
rldunn @ 10/22/2002 2:02:04 PM #
Geez, a lot of armchair statisticians on here. I'm a real statistician, and I think his method was just fine. He's not trying to generalize to all tests, he's trying to generalize to all valid tests. He applied his criteria in a consistent manner across all the entry methods. You can argue about his definition of a valid test and whether he should have thrown out 5 or 3 or 10, but he stated how he defined it clearly, so we can interpret his numbers in that context. Similar techniques are used everyday in lab studies.

RE: Fuzzy Math
KRamsauer @ 10/22/2002 2:23:02 PM #
Doesn't it make it hard to generalize to a population when you systematically eliminate samples without any evidence supporting them as coming from seperate populations?

RE: Fuzzy Math
ska @ 10/22/2002 3:05:02 PM #
He stated himself that the stylus behaves inconsistantly between test. Hence it is quiet possible that the bottom five numbers sets are containing two different noise which contribute two totally different values between grafitti and minikeyboard.

Hence, the 2 sets of 5 values might move the average and std value in two different size and direction.

RE: Fuzzy Math
a3 @ 10/22/2002 3:27:17 PM #
is it just me or all of you are missing the point here... the review intends to be a palm based one not a statistical one. For heaven's sake I do understand how important statistics are but please give us (the guys who liked the review) a break!!!

Nothing: the worst you can do.
RE: Fuzzy Math
rldunn @ 10/22/2002 3:47:17 PM #
kramsauer, he did have evidence that they belonged to a different population. He felt his hand slip on the stylus and he experienced his 7-year old interrupting him. To eliminate bias, he used a systematic approach to eliminating this noise, which is perfectly fine. Keep in mind the point of his numbers was for comparison between input methods, not to interpret the actual numbers for each input method. So his WPM numbers for each input method are inflated, but the comparison between them is much cleaner than if he hadn't used this approach, since his interruption rate between the methods was probably different.

RE: Fuzzy Math
ska @ 10/22/2002 5:34:31 PM #
if that is the case, why did he eleminate 5 data from mini keyboard and folding keyboard measurement too? wouldn't that mean he is also rejecting cases from the same population? or are you proposing that he got distracted exactly 5 times on each test devices?

I can accept distraction case is from different sample population, but not slipping stylus, since that is obviously characteristic of stylus usage.

from what I interpret, he threw out the number simply because they happen to be at the bottom five, regardless if it is valid and consistent measurement or not.

RE: Fuzzy Math
pontif @ 10/22/2002 5:46:14 PM #
I guess this shows that the signal to noise ratio isn't much improved by requiring a login...

(At this point there are more posts about the stats methods than about the keyboards or their usage, pros/cons, etc.)

Please, no flames. I just see the stats error as minor and only marginally relevant to the actual reviews of the keyboards.

If you really want valid stats, get 100 or more people in the same room for a week, keying the same thing over and over until they are totally proficient with it, then take the timings. Repeat that process with the same group and each keyboard. Then you have a sufficient sample to argue over the actual calculation method... Maybe.

RE: Fuzzy Math
KRamsauer @ 10/22/2002 6:00:19 PM #
No one's really complaining here. We're talking through the process and trying to figure out what the best method is. That's all. :) I personally find the level of conversation in this thread is actually quite high. Of course it isn't really on topic, but that would be too much to ask. :-)

RE: Fuzzy Math
rldunn @ 10/22/2002 6:07:40 PM #
I agree, this is very off-topic, but I'll make one last post to answer ska's questions. Earlier I used the term "valid" observations, but the more I think about it, it probably should have been "ideal" observations. It seems like the reviewer's intent was to determine differences in entry speed under ideal conditions for each of the methods, so he attempted to eliminate observations where he was distracted or just "messed up" (stylus slipping, fingers slipping on the keyboard, etc) without bias by removing the 5 lowest values from each of the input methods. I'm not suggesting that he got distracted the same number of times for each method, but under the null hypothesis of no difference between the methods, if you eliminate the same number of valid observations from the low end of the distribution, then the comparison will still show no difference, so that's why this is unbiased. Your point about stylus slipping is a good one if you were trying to get an accurate measurement of stylus entry, but this is why I think he was trying to get the measurements under "ideal" circumstances and "valid" was a poor choice of words.

It's not like he invented this method. There is a common statistic called the trim mean that uses this exact method, and is designed for this type of purpose. Usually this statistic would trim observations off the top and bottom, so the ensuing mean wouldn't be inflated, and if you want to criticize him for anything statistical, it should be that. But I still think his numbers are fine for comparison purposes, and I'm surprised his statistical methods have drawn so much scrutiny.

RE: Fuzzy Math
Palm_Otaku @ 10/22/2002 6:24:25 PM #
Heh, let me just add a final *qualitative* statement:

I consider myself very experienced with Graffiti and only moderately experienced with ThumbBoards. An interesting observation (to me anyway) was that I was able to get "up to speed" very quickly on it with a surprisingly low number of errors. My *subjective* opinion is that I can envision a number of circumstances where a ThumbBoard would be my preferred method of input.

I expect that many people, particularly those who *aren't* Graffiti speed-demons, would find the same.


(* I am not a statistician (nor do I play one on TV))

RE: Fuzzy Math
rldunn @ 10/22/2002 10:40:14 PM #
That's a great point. I can't believe how fast I got used to the keyboard on my NR, and I make fewer errors than with graffiti, plus I'm about 50% faster on the keyboard. Even so, what puts it over the top is that most of my input is with full-screen apps, which the keyboard is able to take full advantage of.

RE: Fuzzy Math
George4 @ 10/25/2002 4:59:15 PM #
Wow! Rod, of all people. I used to worship your advice on nXt's site. [not that i respect you any less, but...]
To 'not see the forest for the trees' is to look so closely at something that you can't tell what you're looking at.
Statistician, or no, the simple logic is thus:
To take away the lowest numbers alters the average.
If the dropped 5% of the thumboard was actually much Lower than the bottom 5% of graffiti, I WANT To KNOW.
In the real world, even the most proficient data imputers make mistakes and get interuupted. But how much does that mistake cost them on the tumboard must be different than G-tti or typing.
How long it takes to recover from a sweaty stylus v. correcting a mistype is exactly what this type of a shoot-out can reveal via averaging.
I vote for doing another shoot-out, only with twice as many runs and the errors/slips included.
That gives me a real idea of how efficient these methods are in actual use. Using a statistical approac only gives the errors their due, rather than rule them out entirely.

But don't let my criticism take away from my appreciation. It's about time we saw this on PIC. THX!


ice @ 10/23/2002 9:40:23 PM #
I type 169WPM at most on a keyboard.

xbox is the best console in the world, and always will be.
RE: Gah....
Zuber @ 10/25/2002 7:19:08 AM #
I think the idea is to type something you can read afterwards :)




Register Register | Login Log in